The Darby St eatery to say its goodbyes
It’s the end of an era as we get ready to farewell one of Darby Street’s favourite eateries, Wil&Sons this June.
That’s right, the beautiful big blue façade that sits pretty in the heart of Cooks Hills’ Darby St is wrapping up business with their final day of trade set for the 11th of June 2023.
The man behind the business, Toby, shared the news earlier this month with an announcement on social media, and it’s safe to say the brunch and dinner lovers of Newcastle have shed many a tear.
To find out more about the sad departure and what’s next, we caught up with owner, Toby, and Executive Chef Larry…
Toby, you opened in 2018 and you recently announced you’ll be closing Wil&Sons for good – what prompted this decision?
“We took over The Hop Factory on 28th April 2018 and changed the name to Wil&Sons on 1st November 2018. Forever, Larry and I had planned to open another venue once our lease was up at Wil&Sons which is June 14.
“It dawned on me the Monday after a busy Mother’s Day weekend that committing to another venue with a young family may not be my best decision. I found myself tired and not present for my Wife’s first Mother’s Day and then the next day (Monday) which is my day with my baby girl, Max,” says Toby.
How would you describe the past five years in business? Talk me through the absolute highs and the absolute lows – we want to hear it all!
“Great question! The last 5 years in business have been an absolute rollercoaster, to say the least! I think any business owner would say the same.
“Wil&Sons started very well and got busier and busier as months went on. Luckily, we got 1.5 years (thereabouts) of solid trade to build up our brand and a strong customer base of amazing regular patrons. And then… covid. Faarrrrkkkk!! Who would have seen that bad boy coming?
“I couldn’t believe how quickly covid put a halt to trade. My job went from managing a business and restaurant to managing lockdown procedures/protocols and government grants to try and survive. Thankfully to our beautiful regular humans and resilience of our staff, we did.
“Over our time at Wil&Sons, we have had a lot more highs than lows. We have been finalists in the Australian Small business awards for two years, we have made it to the #1 restaurant in Newcastle on TripAdvisor, we have met so many great people that we now call friends and we have made it through a pandemic to mention a few.
“The biggest high of Wil&Sons has been the team that we have built and the relationships we have built with our lovely customers. It makes going to work every day a pleasure and something I will dearly miss once out of the industry,” says Toby.
How are you both feeling about this end of an era?
“We are both feeling lots of emotions! Sad, happy, anxious, and all of the above! It’s been Toby’s goal to open his own place for a long time and I was lucky enough to just jump on the ride!
“I think the saddest part for myself is, as Toby always said, for me to make it and treat it as my own business. And I feel deeply that I have, and that’s always been the motto I’ve run by since the get-go,” says Larry.
“I am feeling all of the emotions. Moments of extreme happiness and excitement and also extreme sadness and scared. It’s a big bad world out there and I am stepping away from an industry that I love and have been in for so long to pursue valuable family time with Bridget, Max, parents, and siblings. Who knows what is next,” Toby said.
Larry, you’ve been a part of Wil&Sons since the get-go – where can we expect to see you and your tasty food creations next?
“Even before we opened our doors trading as The Hop Factory I was with Toby and Phil looking at the kitchen before they signed the lease! I guess coming from running my own kitchen for the past 5 years puts me in a little gap for what’s next! All I know is that I’m going to take a nice break and spend some well-deserved time with my partner, Phoebe, and my family which I’m looking forward to.
“It’ll be a tough next move that’s for sure because at the end of the day, it wasn’t just my food which made Wil&Sons the place it is but purely what Toby was able to create with our beautiful front-of-house crew. So, I guess all I can try and do in whatever next venture I take on in the hospitality world is to continue what we did at Willies.”
Sunday, 11th of June will be Wil&Sons last day – what can we expect from the venue in the lead-up to your last day?
“You can expect the same as what you have been given for the past five years. Amazing food, beverages, and smiling service create the best experience. All of the team are on board to finish strong and give back to our customers that have supported us for so long.
“Thankfully we have been very busy since announcing that we will close which has been so lovely to see all of our supporters. Keep on coming in for your last dose of Wil&Sons over the next two weeks. We truly love seeing you all.
“Apologies for any tears shed in the last couple of days, it’s going to be tough saying goodbye to you all,” says Toby.
Finally, a HUGE thank you to Wil&Sons for being a part of Newcastle’s vibrant hospitality scene and the Darby Street community – you’ll be incredibly missed.
“Thank you! I also wanted to mention that Wil&Sons is not only Larry and me, but the venue would also never have been the place it is without some integral people.
“A huge thank you to my parents, Philip and Kathy, my wife, Bridget, and little girl Max. And all of my staff… WOWEE. You guys are the true heroes. Turning up every shift with the biggest smiles and ready to give it your absolute best. I can’t thank you all enough and you will be missed by so many people,” says Toby.